Ramiro Pena was signed as a utility infielder for his glove work, but did pretty much everything for the Atlanta Braves in the series opener with the Washington Nationals, including hitting his first homer since 2011 to give Atlanta a 6-4 win at Nationals Park.
The Braves exercised incredible patience in the late innings, including cutting the deficit to two by drawing three walks mixed with a single to produce a run off Tyler Clippard.
Pena started his heroics in the ninth when he pinch-hit for Gerald Laird. With Chris Johnson on first after a single, Pena perfectly placed a bunt single of his own, setting up Blake DeWitt's sacrifice bunt. Two batters later, Jason Heyward walked to load the bases, setting up Justin Upton's infield hit to Ryan Zimmerman, whose only possible play was at second base. Zimmerman's throw, however, ended up in right field and the Braves tied the game.
With two outs in the 10th and Dan Uggla on base with the Braves' eighth walk of the night, Pena belted his third Major League homer to right field off Craig Stammen to give the Braves a lead that Craig Kimbrel would ensure in the bottom of the inning.
"I was feeling good," Pena said on braves.com. "I saw the pitcher and I thought I'm going to take a chance. I just wanted to concentrate on one pitch. It was a good thing that I didn't miss it."
What shouldn't be lost is the effort Julio Teheran put out. After giving up a two-run homer to Bryce Harper in the first inning and a run-scoring hits to Denard Span and Jayson Werth in the second, Teheran threw four no-hit innings two cap off his six innings.
The bullpen then proceeded to throw four shutout innings with only a pair of hits allowed by Jordan Walden. Luis Ayala threw a perfect seventh in this Braves debut.
"The whole time, the way our bullpen was throwing zeros up there, you felt like you were in the game," Fredi Gonzalez said. "We keep talking about our offense and all that stuff. But our pitching has kept us in the ballgame and given us a chance to [come back]."
The win was the Braves' seventh straight to give them a 9-1 record, their best start since a 13-1 mark in 1994. The Nationals drop to two games out at 7-3.
The Braves and Nats turn around quickly for a 1:05 p.m. start on Saturday. Tim Hudson and Stephen Strasburg will man the bump for their respective teams.Tags: Atlanta, Atlanta Braves, Bryce Harper, Julio Teheran, Luis Ayala, MLB, Ramiro Pena, Washington Nationals